Sex Establishments

General information and guidance about licenses for sex shops, sex cinemas and sexual entertainment venues.

Frequently asked questions:

Why do I need a licence?

To run a sex shop - that is any premises selling sex toys, books or videos - you need a licence from the local authority. To run a venue where explicit (R18) films are shown to members of the public, you also need a licence from the local authority.  To hold sexual entertainment eg. lap, pole or table dancing you need a licence from the local authority.

What will I have to do?

A summary of the regulation relating to this licence is available under external links on this page.

What does the application process involve?

An applicant:

  • must be at least 18 years old
  • must not be disqualified from holding a licence
  • must have been resident in the UK at least six months immediately before the application or, if a body corporate, must be incorporated in the UK
  • must not have been refused the grant or renewal of a licence for the premises in question within the last 12 months unless the refusal has been reversed on appeal.

Fees will be payable for applications and conditions may be attached.

What does the evaluation process involve?

Applications must be in writing (including by electronic means) and contain any information the local authority requires, as well as the applicant's name, address and, where the applicant is an individual, their age, plus the address of the premises.


Applicants must give public notice of their application by publishing an advertisement in a local newspaper.

Will Tacit Consent apply?

No. It is in the public interest that the authority must process your application before it can be granted. If you have not heard from the local authority within a reasonable period, please contact it. You can do this online if you applied through the UK Welcomes service or use the contact details below.

Can I make my application online?

Yes, please see external links at the on this page.

What can I do if my application fails?

Please contact your Local authority in the first instance. Any applicant who has refused a licence, or refused the renewal of a licence, may, within 21 dyas of being notified of the refusal, appeal to the local magistrates' court. However, the right to appeal does not apply where the licence was refused on the grounds that:

  • the number of sex establishments in the area exceeds the number which the authority consider is appropriate
  • the grant of the licence would be inappropriate considering the character of the area, the nature of other premises in the area, or the premises themselves.

What can I do if I am unhappy about the licence conditions?

Please contact your Local Authority in the first instance. A licence holder who wishes to appeal against a condition can appeal to a local magistrates' court.

How can I make a complaint?

We would always advise that in the event of a complaint the first contact is made with the trader by you - preferably in the form of a letter (with proof of delivery). If that has not worked, if you are located in the UK, Consumer Direct (see external links on this page) will give you advice. From outside the UK contact the UK European Consumer Centre (see external links on this page).


Licence holders may at any time apply to the authority for a variation of the terms, conditions or restrictions on their licence.


If an application for a variation is refused, or if the licence is revoked, the licence holder may, within 21 days of being notified of the imposition of, or the refusal to vary, the term, condition or restriction in questions, or of the revocation, appeal to the local magistrates' court.


A licence holder may also appeal to the crown court against a decision of a magistrates' court.

Are there other types of redress?

Any person objecting to an application for the grant, renewal or transfer of a licence may give written notice of their objection to the relevant authority, stating the grounds of the objection, within 28 days of the date of the application.

Are there any trade associations?